July 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are select July 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

1.         REVISED PENAL CODE

Rape; principles in deciding rape cases. Antonio Baraoil was found guilty by the lower courts for two crimes of rape defined and penalized under RA 8353 and the Revised Penal Code. Courts use the following principles in deciding rape cases: (1) an accusation of rape can be made with facility; it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the person accused, though innocent, to disprove; (2) due to the nature of the crime of rape in which only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with extreme caution; and (3) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense. Due to the nature of this crime, conviction for rape may be solely based on the complainant’s testimony provided it is credible, natural, convincing, and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things. The Supreme Court (“SC”) held in the instant case that the totality of the evidence adduced by the prosecution proved the guilt of the accused-appellant beyond reasonable doubt. The SC finds no cogent reason to disturb the trial court’s appreciation of the credibility of the prosecution witnesses’ testimony. People of the Philippines v. Antonio Baraoil, G.R. No. 194608, July 9, 2012.

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April 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are select April 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

1.         REVISED PENAL CODE

Composite crime; defined.  The felony of rape with homicide is a composite crime.  A composite crime, also known as a special complex crime, is composed of two or more crimes that the law treats as a single indivisible and unique offense for being the product of a single criminal impulse. It is a specific crime with a specific penalty provided by law and differs from a compound or complex crime under Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code, which states that “[w]hen a single act constitutes two or more grave or less grave felonies, or when an offense is a necessary means for committing the other, the penalty for the most serious crime shall be imposed, the same to be applied in its maximum period. People v. Villaflores,G.R. No. 184926, April 11, 2012.

Composite crime and compound crime differentiated. There are distinctions between a composite crime, on the one hand, and a complex or compound crime under Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code, on the other hand. In a composite crime, the composition of the offenses is fixed by law; in a complex or compound crime, the combination of the offenses is not specified but generalized, that is, grave and/or less grave, or one offense being the necessary means to commit the other. For a composite crime, the penalty for the specified combination of crimes is specific; for a complex or compound crime, the penalty is that corresponding to the most serious offense, to be imposed in the maximum period. A light felony that accompanies a composite crime is absorbed; a light felony that accompanies the commission of a complex or compound crime may be the subject of a separate information. People v. Villaflores, G.R. No. 184926, April 11, 2012.

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January 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are selected January 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

1.         REVISED PENAL CODE

Estafa; probable cause. East Asia acted as dealer of commercial papers and custodian of the same on Zamora’s behalf.  This is clear from the terms of its sale invoice and custodian receipt.  East Asia acquired the commercial papers in trust and was obliged to deliver them and their proceeds to Zamora, failing which, its responsible officers could be prosecuted for estafa.  However, there was no probable cause to charge the respondents with estafa.  Zamora failed to identify the particular officers of East Asia who were responsible for the misappropriation or conversion of her funds. She simply assumed that since she had been communicating with them in connection with her investments, they all had a part in misappropriating her money or converting them to their use.  Many of them were evidently mere employees doing work for East Asia.  She did not submit proof of their specific criminal role in the transactions she assailed.  It is settled that only corporate officers who actually had part in the crime may be held liable for it. Virginia A. Zamora v. Jose Armado L. Eduque, et al, G.R. No. 174005, January 25, 2012.

Estafa through falsification; presumption of authorship. Metrobank urges the application of the presumption of authorship against Tobias based on his having offered the duplicate copy of the spurious title to secure the loan, and posits that there is no requirement that the presumption shall apply only when there is absence of a valid explanation from the person found to have possessed, used and benefited from the forged document. Metrobank’s theory was not sustained here. First, a presumption affects the burden of proof that is normally lodged in the State. The effect is to create the need of presenting evidence to overcome the prima facie case that shall prevail in the absence of proof to the contrary. As such, a presumption of law is material during the actual trial of the criminal case where in the establishment thereof the party against whom the inference is made should adduce evidence to rebut the presumption and demolish the prima facie case. This is not so in a preliminary investigation, where the investigating prosecutor only determines the existence of a prima facie case that warrants the prosecution of a criminal case in court. Second, the presumption of authorship, being disputable, may be accepted and acted upon where no evidence upholds the contention for which it stands. It is not correct to say, consequently, that the investigating prosecutor will try to determine the existence of the presumption during preliminary investigation, and then to disregard the evidence offered by the respondent. Moreover, the presumption that whoever possesses or uses a spurious document is its forger applies only in the absence of a satisfactory explanation.  Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. (Metrobank), represented by Rosella A. Santiago v. Antonio O. Tobias III, G.R. No. 177780, January 25, 2012.

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May 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are selected May 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

1. CRIMINAL LAW

Conspiracy; proof. Conspiracy requires the same degree of proof required to establish the crime — proof beyond reasonable doubt. Thus, mere presence at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission without proof of cooperation or agreement to cooperate is not enough to constitute one a party to a conspiracy. Michael San Juan y Cruz v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 177191, May 30, 2011.

Continued crimes; foreknowledge to prove single intent. Petitioner’s theory, fusing his liability to one count of Grave Threats because he only had “a single mental resolution, a single impulse, and single intent” to threaten the Darongs assumes a vital fact: that he had foreknowledge of Indalecio, Diosetea, and Vicente’s presence near the water tank in the morning of 8 April 1999. The records, however, belie this assumption. Moreover, petitioner went to the water tank not to execute his “single intent” to threaten Indalecio, Diosetea, and Vicente but to investigate a suspected water tap. Not having known in advance of the Darongs’ presence near the water tank at the time in question, petitioner could not have formed any intent to threaten any of them until shortly before he inadvertently came across each of them. Petitioner’s theory holds water only if the facts are altered – that is, he threatened Indalecio, Diosetea, and Vicente at the same place and at the same time. Santiago Paera v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 181626, May 30, 2011.

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July 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are selected July 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

CRIMINAL LAW

1.     Revised Penal Code

Aggravating circumstance; treachery. In the killing of victims in this case, the trial court was correct in appreciating the aggravating circumstance of treachery. There is treachery when the attack is so sudden and unexpected that the victim had no opportunity either to avert the attack or to defend himself. Indeed, nothing can be more sudden and unexpected than when a father stabs to death his two young daughters while they were sound asleep and totally defenseless. People of the Philippines vs. Calonge y Verana, G.R. No. 182793, July 5, 2010.

Aggravating circumstance; treachery. The Court held that treachery can still be appreciated even though the victim was forewarned of the danger to his life because what is decisive is that the attack was executed in a manner that the victim was rendered defenseless and unable to retaliate. Although the victim knew that the accused held a grudge against him, he never had any inkling that he would actually be attacked that night. The way it was executed made it impossible for the victim to respond or defend himself. He just had no opportunity to repel the sudden attack, rendering him completely helpless. Accused, moreover, used a firearm to easily neutralize the victim, which was undeniably a swift and effective way to achieve his purpose. Lastly, but significantly, the accused aimed for the face of the victim ensuring that the bullet would penetrate it and damage his brain. These acts are distinctly indicative of the treacherous means employed by the accused to guarantee the consummation of his criminal plan. Thus, as treachery attended the killing of Loreto Cruz, such circumstance qualified the killing as murder, punishable under paragraph 1 of Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code. People of the Philippines vs. Pedro Ortiz, Jr. y Lopez, G.R. No. 188704, July 7, 2010.

Attempted homicide; civil liability; temperate damages. The Supreme Court modified the decision of the Court of Appeals with respect to the petitioner’s civil liability for being erroneous and contrary to prevailing jurisprudence. The Court of Appeals ordered actual damages to be paid in the amount of P3,858.50. In People v. Andres, the Supreme Court held that if the actual damages, proven by receipts during the trial, amount to less than P25,000.00, the victim shall be entitled to temperate damages in the amount of P25,000.00 in lieu of actual damages. The award of temperate damages is based on Article 2224 of the New Civil Code which states that temperate or moderate damages may be recovered when the court finds that some pecuniary loss was suffered but its amount cannot be proven with certainty. In this case, the victim is entitled to the award of P25,000.00 as temperate damages considering that the amount of actual damages is only P3,858.50. Actual damages should no longer be awarded. Giovani Serrano y Cervantes vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 175023, July 5, 2010.

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February 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are selected February 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

Criminal Law

1.     Revised Penal Code

Criminal liability; exemption. Under Art. 332 of the Revised Penal Code, the relationship by affinity created between the husband and the blood relatives of his wife is not dissolved by the death of one spouse, thus ending the marriage which created such relationship by affinity. The Supreme Court upheld the continuing affinity view, which maintains that the relationship by affinity between the surviving spouse and the kindred of the deceased spouse continues even after the death of the deceased spouse, regardless of whether the marriage produced children or not.

The continuing affinity view was adopted by the Supreme Court in interpreting Art. 332 of the Revised Penal Code. First, Art. 332(1) is meant to be beneficial to relatives by affinity within the degree covered under the said provision. This view has been applied in the interpretation of laws in order to benefit step-relatives or in-laws. Second, Art. 332(1) is couched in a general language because the legislative intent is to make no distinction between the spouse of one’s living child and the surviving spouse of one’s deceased child can be drawn from it without doing violence to its language. Third, the continuing affinity view is more in accord with family solidarity and harmony as declared by the Constitution in Section 12, Art. II, and Section 1, Art. 15. Fourth, the fundamental principle of in dubio pro reo (when in doubt, rule for the accused) and rule of lenity, must be applied.  These principles call for the adoption of an interpretation which is more lenient. Since the basic purpose of Art. 332 is to preserve family harmony by providing an absolutory cause, the court should adopt the continuing affinity view. Intestate of Manolita Gonzales vda. De Carungcong, represented by Mediatrix Carungcong as Administratirix vs. People of the Philippines, et al., G.R. No. 181409, February 11, 2010.

Criminal liability; command responsibility. Gen. Esperon and P/Dir Gen. Razon were included in the case on the theory that they, as commanders, were responsible for the unlawful acts allegedly committed by their subordinates against petitioners. While in a qualified sense tenable, the dismissal by the Court of Appeals of the case against them is incorrect if viewed in the light of command responsibility.

“Command responsibility” in its simplest terms, means the “responsibility of commanders for crimes committed by subordinate members of the armed forces or other persons subject to their control in international wars or domestic conflict. In this sense, command responsibility is properly a form of criminal complicity.

The Hague Conventions of 1907 adopted the doctrine of command responsibility, and recently, this doctrine has been codified in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to which the Philippines is a signatory. Section 28 of the Statute imposes individual responsibility on military commanders for crimes committed by forces under their control. However, the country is not yet formally bound by the terms and provisions embodied in this treaty-statute, since the Senate has yet to extend concurrence in its ratification. Thus, while there are several pending bills on command responsibility, there is still no Philippine law that provides for criminal liability under that doctrine.

It may be plausibly contended that command responsibility, as legal basis for criminal liability, may be made applicable to this jurisdiction on the theory that the command responsibility doctrine now constitutes a principle in international law in accordance with the incorporation clause of the Constitution. Still it would be inappropriate to apply to these proceedings this doctrine, as a form of criminal complicity through omission, if any, since the issue of criminal culpability is beyond the reach of a writ of amparo. Lourdes D. Rubrico, et al. vs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al., G.R. No. 183871, February 18, 2010.

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July 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Legal/Judicial Ethics

Here are selected July 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on criminal law and legal/judicial ethics.

Criminal Law

Accomplice. To hold a person liable as an accomplice, two elements must concur: (1) community of design, which means that the accomplice knows of, and concurs with, the criminal design of the principal by direct participation; and (2) the performance by the accomplice of previous or simultaneous acts that are not indispensable to the commission of the crime. In this case, Maliao facilitated the commission of the crime by providing his own house as the venue thereof. His presence throughout the commission of the heinous offense, without him doing anything to prevent the malefactors or help the victim, indubitably show community of design and cooperation, although he had no direct participation in the execution thereof. People of the Philippines vs. Jessie Maliao y Masakit, Norberto Chiong y Discotido and Luciano Bohol y Gamana, Jessie Maliao y Masakit(Accused-Appellant), G.R. No. 178058,  July 31, 2009.

Alibi.   The defense of alibi must fail, especially in light of the fact that two of the prosecution witnesses, BBB and DDD, positively identified accused-appellant as one of the malefactors of the crime. Positive identification, where categorical and consistent and without any showing of ill motive on the part of the eyewitnesses testifying on the matter, prevails over alibi and denial. These defenses, if not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence, are negative and self-serving evidence undeserving of weight in law.  People of the Philippines vs. Teodulo Villanueva, Jr., G.R. No. 187152.  July 22, 2009

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